Welcome back to the circus of MTG Finance. This week I'm going to take you through the process of one of my trades and expand on some of the subtleties. Let's start by talking about a card that is on its way up with a bullet.
This card is receiving a lot of love because people can't resist a combo deck! In case you don't know New Phyrexia is going to bless us with a Pestermite reprint (kind of) by way of Deceiver Exarch. I knew that Splinter Twin was on the rise because I noticed that StarCityGames.com was buying at $2. I figured that they were selling at $4-5 so I tried to pick some up this weekend at a local tournament. There weren't many to be found. I picked up a couple at a dollar here and there until I stumbled upon someone with a regular one and a foil. Jackpot! I asked him “What do you value these at?” You can imagine my surprise when the kid looked me straight in the face and said:
I gave the guy some static to feel him out. I wanted to see if he was pulling this number out of his bum. He said they were $6 on StarCityGames.com and sold out. I pulled out my phone and navigated to FindMagicCards.com; the lowest one that I could find was listed for $8.59. Holy shite (that's a swear word in German)! I knew that I didn't want to give $10 or even $8 on these things. I set them aside and focused on other stuff that he had. We're going to segue into trade technique here. This kid had a box of commons / uncommons and when I went through it I found a bunch of Legacy commons and uncommons.
The “You Choose” Method
I was unsure about how to proceed with the trade. Some people really overvalue their commons/uncommons and other people undervalue them. For example my trade partner wanted $4 for his Tendrils of Agony in the previous trade. I decided to hit him with a proposal. I said “Here's my strategy. I want to get as many cards as I can in this trade. So can you do me a favor? Can you make two piles out of these cards a $.50 cent pile and a $1 pile?” He obliged and started working his way through the stack. Here is a sample of the stack that I handed him:
3x Swords to Plowshares (Duel Deck)
Thousand Year Elixir (Foil)
Hymn to Tourach
4x Lightning Helix
3x Kitchen Finks
4x Tendrils of Agony
Qasali Pridemage (Foil FNM)
Rift Bolt (Foil FNM)
3x Everflowing Chalice
2x Dread Return
Magma Jet (Japanese)
Viridian Corrupter (Foil)
Growth Spasm (Foil)
Stoic Rebuttal (Foil)
Sphere of the Suns
Vault of Whispers
Seat of Synod
3x Gatekeeper of Malakir
Here are the piles that he made:
Total Assumed Value: $4.50
Total Retail Value: $14.91
Total Assumed Value: $9
Total Retail Value: $17.91
After separating the piles my trade partner said “I see plenty of stuff here that's worth less than fifty cents.” I said “Yeah I'd be interested in that stuff too.” He made a pile and handed it to me. I thumbed through the pile and said “How about twenty-five cents on this stuff?” He looked at the pile for a second and then shook his head and said “I can do that.”
5x Oust (.49)
Viridian Corrupter (Foil) (1.49)
Growth Spasm (Foil) (1.99)
Dispel (Foil) (1.49)
2x Frogmite (.49)
Stoic Rebuttal (Foil) (2.99)
Sphere of the Suns (.75)
Vault of Whispers (.99)
Seat of Synod (1.99)
3x Gatekeeper of Malakir (1.99)
Goblin Bushwhacker (Foil) (2.49)
Total Assumed Value: $5.25
Total Retail Value: $26.81
After we traded for the Commander cards that he wanted (his pile included cards like Azami Lady of Scrolls Kor Haven and Boseiju Who Shelters All) he told me “Not many people trade for common and uncommons.” He's right; I always see these wannabe traders hitting the tables at various events. The scene is always the same tiresome dance.
*Wannabe shoves his trade binder in the direction of Average Joe*
Average Joe: Okay
*Wannabe grabs thumbs through Average Joe's binder*
Wannabe: What do you want on the Jace and the fetches? That's all I see.
Wannabe misses a critical point. When you list only the good cards in someone's binder this sets off the shark alert. Also keep in mind that value isn't always in these bigger cards. When was the last time that you gained $40.88 (that was the total gain in the above transaction) in value when trading for fetchlands? This point is further illustrated when my trade partner says “You know I could use a Sword of Fire and Ice if we can get there.”
“If we can get there.”
This is a variation of “Can we get there?” Both phrases are music to my ears because it tells me that I'm positioned perfectly in the trade. These two phrases say so much about what's going on in my trade partner's head. The first thing that it says is that they're insecure with the value of their collection. This sounds kind of funny but if you look deep you can find some truth in it. Think about how many times you've heard people brag about their collection. There's even a subculture in Magic based on how Pimp (expensive) you can make your deck. This is the opposite of that feeling.
People put a lot of time in building their decks and their collection and it's intimidating for them to deal with a person who has a much more expensive collection than they do. There's a weird sense of inadequacy that comes over them. When this happens the person who has the better collection can gain value by taking the stance “You need my cards but I don't need yours.” This feeling of inadequacy is powerful—not only can it help you position yourself to gain value but you can empower your trade partner by making a trade like this work.
When people see that they can use their collection to get something that they want and still have a collection this gives your trade partner a sense of power. After completing a big trade for expensive cards it's typical for my trade partner to be surprised at how little they actually had to give for what they wanted. This tension of going from inadequate to empowered really builds a strong bond between you and your trade partner. If you have ever traded up to something you need think about how you felt; didn't it make you feel like you could get anything? That's how my trade partner felt after trading me the commons/uncommons; that's why he decided to try for the Sword of Fire and Ice.
Remember that I told you that I stumbled upon a jackpot (the two Splinter Twins)? This is where I made my move for them. I knew two things: one he wanted my Sword of Fire and Ice and two he didn't pay more than $1 for the Splinter Twins because that's what they were a couple of weeks ago. Typically if someone didn't pay a lot for a card they're not going to fuss over taking a hit on a virtual value. Whenever I'm trading a hot card down for smaller cards I typically enter buyer mode. It's where I offer less than the known value of a card. This is hard for some people to do but when your trade partner says stuff like “Do you think we can get to a Koth?” It's practically an invitation to enter buyer mode. Here's how I did it.
“I can trade you the Sword but before I start pulling stuff I want to give you the rundown. I can sell this Sword online for cash so I have to give you that cash price on your cards. Like these Splinter Twins they sell for $8 retail but since I'm not a store I won't get $8 out of them. I'll probably get more like $6 so I can offer $5 on the regular and $10 on the foil. Does this work for you?”
Ninety percent of the time my trade partner will be okay with this. If you're astute then you noticed something tricky in what I said. My proposition was this: because I can get cash for the Sword I could only offer cash prices. I then gave the “cash” price for the Splinter Twin as $6. That should have been the end of that but instead I took it down a dollar. I call this stepping. People are used to doing this in regular negotiations so it's natural to accept a stepped-down price. By accepting the stepped-down price we ignore the original premise. Some people might be asking “Why do you step? Why enter buyer mode in such a way? Why not say I can offer you less than retail for your cards?”
These are fair questions. The answer to all these questions and the heart of negation can be found in one thing: perception. Nobody wants to be played like a fool. Let's say that I offer $5 on the Splinter Twins and my trade partner accepts it. Then they're talking to their friends about the trade and their friends (as friends tend to do) say “You got ripped off man!” How can my trade partner respond? When you enter buy mode as described above you give a reason for your actions. This is a reason that your trade partner can use to defend their case. You need to give people a reason to give you a discounted rate on their cards.
In the end I traded the Sword at $50 and I got the Splinter Twins at $5 and $10 for the foil. I hope the process of this trade and the subtleties have helped give you some insight into how to gain value through trading down and how to get the pricing that you want. Here is a quick summary of what you should know after reading this article.
1) Splinter Twin retails for $8 plus but you can pick them up for $1 or less.
2) Trade for Commons / Uncommons
3) When trading for a lot of Commons / Uncommons give your trade partner parameters to price them (e.g. $1 $.50 and $.25).
4) When someone asks “Can we get there?” they are insecure about their collection and they are probably ready for buyer mode.
5) Enter buyer mode with a reason to increase the confidence of your trade partner.
See you next week! Thanks for reading.